In front of he Market
Banlung City is the provincial capital of Ratanakiri Province in Eastern Cambodia. Most visitors to Ratanakiri base themselves in Banlung City from where they make excursions/treks to Khmer Loeu villages and jungle areas.
Banlung itself has grown from a hideously dusty or muddy (depending on the season) truck-stop to a mid-sized (often still dusty or muddy) town set pretty much at the centre of the province. Connected by a sealed road to Stung Treng and via a very rough trail to Sen Monorom, Banlung is one of the most far-flung of the Khmer capitals.
The original capital of Ratanakiri was Lumphat, about an hour's motorcycle ride from town. Lumphat was obliterated by bombing during the US War and the capital was moved to its new location. Pretty much all that remains of old Lumphat is a roundabout - which must have been made of sturdier materials than pretty much everything else.
The town of Banlung is growing though, new roads are being built and some things change quite quickly.
The main market, Phsar Banlung, is a relatively unextraordinary traditional market offering the usual range of items for local consumption. There is one souvenir shop in front of the market, and food stalls set up in front of the market in the evening.
Phsar Banlung, is a typical Cambodian market selling the same merchandise as other markets. at early many Khmer Loeu people come to the market from their villages to sell fruits, vegetablesand forest products. an addition to offering a good shopping opportunity it is a very photogenic, although permission should be sought.
For most travellers' needs (soft drinks, water, beer, liquor, toiletries, snacks, souvenirs, etc.), the small drink shops next to the monument in the center of town carry most everything.
Internet is slow and expensive but it is available and does work well enough for e-mail and limited surfing. There is an Internet shop in the office with Royal Phnom Penh Airways opposite Phsar Banlung.
There are not many restaurants in town and some of the best food is served at the hotel/guesthouse restaurants. After dark the town gets quiet fairly quickly.
Acleda is the only bank in Banlung, and as of July 2010 it has an ATM which accepts Visa but not Cirrus or Mastercard facilities. Since guesthouses in town that cash travellers' cheques charge high commissions and ATMs are unreliable visitors are advised to carry sufficient cash both for the visit and fpr travel onto the next destination. (Note: the Acleda charge for overseas cards is $US2, and although many Cambodian banks in Phnom Penh don't charge, ANZ Royal charge $4.). Moneychangers are located on
the road to the Phsar Banlung.
Canadia Bank has opened a branch with a 24-hr ATM (that takes all cards) in the street on the west side of the market.
Eat responsibly in Banlung and don't encourage poaching by eating the local wildlife.
There's not much of differentiate Banlung cuisine from other Cambodian towns. All restaurants are owned and run by Cambodians. Aside from restaurants located in guest houses, there are several eateries that serve western food. All of these serve a variety of Cambodian and Western food and drinks. The staff is very friendly and dishes start at around US$1.50 or R6000.
South of the roundabout are four shops selling beer, wine and spirits, all a bit more expensive than more accessible places like Phnom Penh. The range of wines is modest, buffs would do well to bring a stock. The restaurant at the Motel Phnom Yaklom is starting to attract travellers for sunset drinks. It's on top of a hill and has beautiful views all day, but especially sunset. Call them and they'll drive you up the hill for free from your guesthouse and drive you back.
Motorcycle taxi (motodup), rental motorcycle and bicycle are the primary ways of getting around town and the immediate area.
Motodups run 500 - 1500 riel almost anywhere in town and $7-$10 for the whole day (limited to the area around Banlung.) Good English speakers that also act as guides may charge more. A motodup from the airport to town is about 1000 riel.
The bus stop is located right in the center of Banlung, south of the Independence Monument at the market. There are connections to and from Stung Treng (4 hours), Kratie (6 hours), Kompong Cham (8 hours) and Phnom Penh (10-12 hours).